Carpets and cooking have put Axminster on the map (right on the Devon/Dorset border, if you need to check).

The East Devon town is famous for producing some of the finest floor coverings in the world, as well as being the base for River Cottage HQ, celebrity chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s set-up.

But there is more to life here. Yes, you can still find Axminster Carpets, the likes of which can be found in royal palaces, stately homes, hotels and train carriages. And River Cottage has a new ‘kitchen and store’ (the River Cottage Kitchen in town closed in 2022). But get past the headline acts and you’ll find a buzzy community with real fire in its belly. They want to make a difference here in a place that can’t rely on the tourist footfall of the region’s seaside locations.

Instead, the drive is to keep it local and encourage others to celebrate the town’s decent selection of independent shops and tearooms, fabulous heritage centre, plus regular markets and events, including the successful Gate to Plate festival.

A recent campaign to encourage more people to shop and spend in town proved to be a big success. The Totally Locally Magic Tenner Campaign sought to highlight how important it is that money goes back into the local economy. More than 20 small businesses offered £10 deals to get people to back the town’s traders.

Great British Life: Stay in the Pendragon Pod. Stay in the Pendragon Pod. (Image: Lyme Bay Holidays)

Small steps in a small town make a big difference. Axminster has suffered with the rest of them over the years with a rise and fall in fortunes. The area took a big hit to its pride when Axminster Carpets went into administration in 2020 before being rescued and revived.

The high street also suffered after the pandemic and some businesses didn’t make it through. But that’s the story pretty much everywhere. Now, the community is, quite literally, flying the flags of positivity. The Axminster Banners Group was a Chamber of Commerce Campaign to introduce colourful street banners to brighten the town. After some winter repairs, these bright and cheerful creations will be back up this summer.

Axminster is home to a lot of ‘unseen magic’, as one local put it. Time to get in on the act.

Great British Life: Indulge in some sweet treats at the Waffle House. Indulge in some sweet treats at the Waffle House. (Image:


The Tiffin Box (Trinity Square) is a cosy little bijou café with a variety of imaginative vegetarian and vegan options, plus scones, cakes, coffee and a wide selection of loose-leafed teas. Ric’s Kitchen (Victoria Place) is a small 25-seater bistro/cafe/bar, serving high quality handmade food from the open kitchen. The non-for-profit Waffle House (Trinity Square) in the former Trinity House department store, is a real treat. The menu is based on a secret waffle recipe. Toppings can be sweet or savoury and there are breakfast options. The Axminster Inn (Silver Street) was recently crowned Exeter and East Devon CAMRA pub of the year.

The East Devon town known globally for its ability to make splendid carpets is also flying the flag for its collection of independent shops and businesses

The George Hotel (George Street) a prominent 18th century building which had stood empty for 10 years, was bought by South Coast Inns and reopened in 2019. Kerrington House (Musbury Road) is a Victorian gentleman’s residence with plenty of period features (marble fireplaces and fine plasterwork ceilings) and landscaped gardens. Out of town in Kilmington, stay on an 17th century former dairy farm, converted into self-catering/hotel accommodation. Hill Farm Stays offers a range of family rooms you can stay in all together to smaller rustic rooms for solo travellers. Get cosy in Pendragon Pod, a quirky hideaway next to woodland on the edge of Axminster. Available through Family-run Netherleigh (Cooks Lane) has B&B or self-catering rooms. Up to three dogs are allowed in the Studio accommodation, the detached annexe with fenced garden on site. The Old Art Studio (Blackpool Corner) B&B is a great base. The room is an impressive 300sq ft - large enough to take up to four guests. A travel cot is also available.

Great British Life: The Recycling Shop, AxminsterThe Recycling Shop, Axminster (Image: The Recycling Shop)


A visit here is easy. Axminster, for all its rural charms, is well-connected by road and rail. The A303 and M5 aren’t far away and the station has regular trains to and from London.

From 1755 until 1835 Thomas Whitty and his family made hand-knotted carpets on special vertical looms, which had been designed by Thomas himself.

The Heritage Centre, which is in a building that was once part of the Georgian Carpet factory, brings Axminster’s history to life with the help of interactive exhibits, children’s trails, dressing up, activities and workshops.

The Recycling Shop in the historic Regent Hall building is the region’s largest used furniture store. Set up in 2008, the team here is proudly preventing some 30 tonnes of usable items from going to landfill each week, as well as raising money for charity.